The 2011-12 Philadelphia Flyers promise to be a team full of intrigue. A huge roster overhaul, change in leadership, a new course set for the future, an elite goaltender and a hockey legend brought in as free agents.
Such dramatic roster moves set up some very intriguing matchups this coming season and those sure to be dramatic games come pretty quickly on the schedule. Here is a list of five that occur before the end of 2011 and the Winter Classic.
Last spring the Bruins wanted revenge for their historic collapse against the Flyers in 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Flyers came back from being down three games to none to win the series. Unfortunately, revenge is what Boston got, sweeping the Flyers en route to winning their first Stanley Cup since 1972.
The new look 2011-12 Flyers jump right into the deep end taking on the Bruins opening night in Boston. The night will no doubt be filled with pomp and circumstance for the Bruins. While this game won't exactly be the "be all and end all" when it comes to seeing what kind of season it will be (first real game for a roster full of new faces will undoubtedly have some kinks to work out) it will be nice to see, from scratch, where the Flyers stand compared to the league's defending champs.
Captain Goodtimes returns to his old stomping grounds just five games into the season. Former captain and former future of the franchise Mike Richards comes back to Philadelphia and no doubt will be bringing a chip on his shoulder the size of his contract with him. Again, this game probably would be better if played later in the season when Richards is more familiar with his surroundings and teammates (and the Flyers have more time to gel), but there promises to be tons of fireworks this night—especially in front of the home crowd.
Watch for Richards, who is among the best opportunists in the league when it comes to hitting, to run a few Flyers. Wayne Simmonds, the player the Kings traded for Richards, would logically be a target for Richards. And if he plays here the way he played for the Kings, Simmonds would appear to be more than willing to go toe-to-toe with the center.
Again another October game and another chance to compare themselves to the conference's elite. Washington lately has tremendous regular seasons and then falls apart in the postseason. Last spring looked to be their year heading into the playoffs but they were upset by the surprising Tampa Bay Lightning, a franchise that turned itself around very quickly.
Adding to the intrigue is Alex Ovechkin going up against his fellow countryman and new Flyers goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov. Ovechkin called the Flyers signing of Bryzgalov "not nice." The Flyers are hoping Bryzgalov adds to the cruelty and shuts down the Capitals' high powered offense.
The other half of the dynamic duo who never visited Dry Island (allegedly), Jeff Carter makes his return to Philadelphia in early November. Mike Richards handled his trade like a professional. For the most part he had nice things to say about the Flyers and the organization. He praised the fans and then talked about his new opportunities in Los Angeles.
Carter on the other hand went into hiding, wouldn't talk to the press or anyone with the Blue Jackets' management and his agent sulked openly about Paul Holmgren "lying" to his client. Eventually Columbus sent a search party into the heart of Sea Isle City, NJ and tracked down the reluctant Blue Jacket.
Carter, who really should've seen the writing on the wall once Bryzgalov was signed and he reflected over his less than stellar career playoff performances, will be out to prove something to his former team. Not very physical by nature, he will have to rely on his scoring ability to make an impact. This will make for an interesting matchup against the Flyers defense and the man whose signing made Carter's departure an inevitability, Ilya Bryzgalov.
In the summer of 2011 in Pittsburgh it was thought to be a given that prodigal son, Jaromir Jagr, would make his NHL comeback in the Steel City, where he started his career and won two Stanley Cups.
When the Flyers shocked the hockey world by signing the legend—with Jagr reportedly leaving money on the table elsewhere after a deal with Pittsburgh fell through—Penguins fans were clearly agitated.
Jagr will be wearing the hated colors of the orange and black in Pittsburgh for the first time ever on December 29th, the final Flyers game of the 2011 calendar year and the final game before the Winter Classic against the Rangers on January 2nd.
The reaction of the Pittsburgh crowd should be interesting to say the least. Jagr will undoubtedly want to put on a show, especially considering the acrimony that apparently now exists between him and the Penguins front office. It should be a game high in drama and excitement as Jagr's presence in the Flyers lineup will stoke the fires of an already intense and bitter cross-state rivalry.
Plus, it'll make a great episode of HBO's 24/7.